Phil Mickelson is determined to claim the “bragging rights” over Tiger Woods from their winner-takes-all high-stakes match in Las Vegas on Friday and aims to set the tone by landing a $200,000 side bet at the opening hole.
The pair, once bitter rivals but a lot friendlier these days, are battling it out for $9 million at Shadow Creek in “The Match”, a pay-per-view event that has been met with lukewarm interest in the build-up by the likes of Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas.
“If they had done it 15 years ago, it would have been great,” said McIlroy, speaking in Dubai last week, “but nowadays it’s missed the mark a little bit.” Thomas, meanwhile, revealed during an impromptu Q&A session on Twitter that there was “zero per cent chance” he would be coughing up the $19.99 cost for the made-for-TV event.
During a press conference to promote the contest, Mickelson and Woods shared lots of banter, as well as slapping each other on the back, before taking part in a boxing-like stare-down that ended with the pair bursting out in laughter. The gloves will be on, though, out on the ultra-private Shadow Creek course and, having lived in the shadow of Woods for most of their careers, Mickelson is determined to make the most of this one-off opportunity.
“He’s the greatest of all time. I’ve seen him do things with a golf ball that have never been done,” said the left-hander of his opponent. “I just don’t want to lose to him and give him satisfaction because the bragging rights are going to be what’s even worse than the money. Every time I see you I want to be able to rub it in. I don’t want it to be rubbed in. I want to sit in the champions’ locker room at Augusta and talk smack, I want that.”
While the $9m has been put up by sponsors, any side bets are believed to be coming out of the pair’s pockets, with Mickelson the first to lay down the gauntlet in that respect. He bet £100,000 that he will birdie the first hole and that was soon doubled by Woods. “It’s my chance after losing so many tournaments to you, so many majors, to get something back,” added Mickelson of the purpose of him taking part in the event.
Woods, who capped a great comeback season following his spinal fusion surgery in 2017 by winning the Tour Championship in Atlanta, is making a first appearance since the Ryder Cup in France. The 14-time major winner looked dead on his feet as part of a losing US team at Le Golf National but says he is eager to get going again. “I’ve been getting back practising and playing and grinding and playing golf again,” said the world No 13. “It’s been fun.”
On Mickelson, he added: “We’ve gone at it for over two decades. I missed competing [while injured] and being able to go against Phil like this. It gets my juices flowing, for sure.”
According to one spread-betting firm, Woods will come out on top. “The Showdown at Shadow Creek will be a thrilling new experience for golf fanatics all over the world,” said Neville Burdock, head of trading at Sporting Index. “Tiger has the better of Phil in terms of majors won – holding 14 to Mickelson’s five – and we expect him to edge it on the 17th hole tomorrow.
“This head-to-head is a match of showmanship, with both golfers admitting that they are keen to get one over on the other. There’s likely to be light-hearted banter over the longest drive, and we’ve gone for 331 yards for this market. Longest putt will come in at 24 feet, according to our traders.”
The contest, which will see both players wearing microphones, coincides with Thanksgiving weekend in the US. And, with no fans allowed on the course, the only option to watch it live is on pay-per-view television. “It’s an insight into the game which you’re normally not able to see,” said Mickelson.